Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Things

Things are busy at el rancho. In the last week, wildflowers and bluebonnets have exploded onto the scene. The elms are pushing out leaves and the post oaks have grown catkins about six inches long! I love when the soil warms enough for plants to push through and deliver their visual treats for us and their nutritious treats for the goats and donkeys.

All but two does have kidded, so we are surrounded by bouncing, springing. baby goats. They can't help it, they just have to bounce! The oldest kids are now six weeks old and developing some independence from mom.

Today, we decided to move the goats in the Maternity Ward over to the Lower Pasture so they could eat up the rye grass and weeds which are thriving on the fertilizer we put down for the bermuda seed. We will only leave them there for a few days. The bermuda sprouts are so short they won't eat them, so the goat are earning their keep by weeding!  Normally, we move goats between pastures with a bucket of feed; they follow along wherever we lead. This time, we weren't so lucky. The Maternity Ward forage is pretty picked over. Once they left that pasture, they found plenty to eat at hand. nice green stuff, and couldn't care less about some goat chow in a bucket. Some of the kids (feeling a little independent) didn't follow their moms, so then the Dans had to chase down kids and hand them over the fence.

On the house front, we finished installing Danny's entire kitchen! Cabinets, counters, sinks and appliances. What a great feeling! The final outside soffits are going in today. After that is done, Danny will finish up the trim work and painting on his own, because Dan and I will be building our apartment inside the Barndo! Hopefully in the next two weeks they can begin welding steel and installing panels! We have elected to hire electricians and plumbers to do all of the initial work so that we can start living in the Barndo sooner and get out of Danny's backyard!

The big question will how the dogs will respond to living apart. Right  now, they sleep in separate houses, but play in the same yard, I don't know if our girls will come down to Danny's during the day, or if Agatha will come to our house, but I am pretty certain that they will find a way to be together!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dogs make Life Better

The last few months have flown by in a whirl. Between trying to get work done on Danny's house, getting fences built, and trying to design a barndo, and taking care of the critters. (let's not even talk about real jobs, too!).  I found time to go to Goat Camp at the end of October, and helped cook up some yummy meals for the campers. While I was out in West Texas, Danny fell in love with a puppy at the Brenham Humane Services. A little white 'wolf' with blue eyes.  He named her Agatha.

Agatha when she first came home.
Agatha was found estray hear the highway and was dropped at the shelter. Danny was doing some volunteer work there and realized that this was the perfect dog for him.  So when I came home from Goat Camp, we had a new family member.

What a great thing to have a dog in the family again!

Agatha quickly learned about being a farm dog, crawling under gates, hanging out with goats, and staying out of donkey reach. She reveled in the joy of drinking from a muddy hoofprint, or just chewing on hay and sticker vine. I think she really believes she is a goat!

To solve this identity crises, we realized that she needed a buddy, a canine companion, a partner in grime. Dan and I both wanted a dog, but the thought of training a puppy while living in a camper seemed a bit daunting. But by the middle of December, we knew we needed another pup.

I'd been scrolling through the webpages, full of hopeful faces, wanting fur-ever homes.  Dozens of pitties, and chihuahuas, terriers and poodles. Old dogs, young dogs. Beagles and dachshunds. Some had long hair, others short. Dogs with three legs, or one eye, or chewed ears.  How to choose?

Hedy is the puppy at the top of the frame.
So, one Saturday morning, Danny and I went to Brazos County to look at some possibles I had found on the webpages of the Bryan Animal Shelter and the Aggieland Humane Society. Most of the dog selection factors centered on Agatha, her personality and size. Not too big, not too small. Slightly younger, but not too young. Not aggressive, not yippy, shorter hair. Well, we met many dogs that day, who hopefully became great pets for someone, but didn't seem to be right for El Rancho. After seeing the shelter dogs and marking a couple of possibles, we went to the big box pet stores. At PetSmart, the Aggieland Shelter was holding an adoption event and had a corral of big puppies about three months old. One caught our eye, but we decided to visit Petco first, where a rescue group was displaying dogs for adoption. We returned to PetSmart and looked at the three puppies. A volunteer said they had been fostered in a home since birth and were Black-Mouth Curs.

 The yellow girl seemed to have a little sparkle, so we filled out all the paperwork, gathered up some supplies, including a huge zebra toy, and headed for the farm. Agatha was a little rough at first, but in no time, the two BFFs were ranging around the farm, with a constant ''dog game" in progress. You know the game, where there is much gnashing of teeth, wrestling, chasing and hugging. Agatha began
developing confidence and assumed the mantle of head puppy dog. We named our dog Hedy (that's Hedy, NOT Hedley).

Well, over the winter, the two pups grew and grew, spending all their days together and retreating to their respective homes at night. It's been a cold winter for the Brazos Valley, and kidding started in mid-February. Several ice days, snow storms and downright frigid windstorms had us prepared to do whatever needed for the livestock. On freezing March morning with deep mud, I saw Sister, a pregnant yearling, limping and unable to keep up with the herd. I enlisted Danny's aid and we went to move her from the Big Pasture to the Maternity Ward.

Across the pasture, I spotted something small and white, like a kid. At that time, all the goat kids were still in the Maternity Ward. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a small white dog. I called her over and she came to me, cold, wet and alone. I brought her in the trailer where we dried her off and got her some food. Hmm. No collar, or collar mark. I thought she looked about eight months old, a cute little Parson Russel Terrier mix. We realized she looked just like the dog on a Milkbone box in Danny's house!

We posted 'found dog' notices in five Facebook groups for Burleson County, Brazos County and the Lost Dogs of Texas. Danny took her to Snook Veterinary Clinic, but Dr. Stein found no microchip. Caldwell Veterinary didn't recognize her and posted her pic on their page as well. Left word at the shelters, posted in TexAgs. I entered her info online in all possible places.

Nothing. Eventually we decided that our worst fears were true: someone had 'dumped' this pretty little dog in the country. Now, I could rant for hours about city people who dump all sorts of animals in 'the country' like it's public land or natural habitat, a place where animals can live in harmony. Yes, and where animals can starve or be eaten.

So, little Madeline became the third member of the Severn pack. From the first day, she seemed to blend in with the other two dogs, and they LOVED her. The "dog game" now has infinite combinations and possibilities. We took her to Dr. Stein for a wellness check and shots this week, and the good doc found a spay incision scar! We are dumbfounded that someone would throw away such a perfectly lovely dog, but have assured her that her home with us is secure.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Seventeen Kids in Eighteen Days

This is our second year of kidding at el rancho. Last year we were total newbies and learned some valuable lessons. One of the lessons was that we decided we needed a more secure place for the does right before kidding. The other was that we decided to be more deliberate and timely in our breeding.

After buying the second property, we planned for a Maternity Ward. Danny chose to put it near his house and last year he plowed, disked, tilled, improved and fertilized the soil, then planted bahia grass. The area is securely fenced with goat wire and barbed wire, top and bottom, and two sixteen-foot gates. There are water taps and shade. Dan moved three goat huts into the pasture and two of them are enclosed into small private areas. So far, so good.

Well, our breeding program was really broken this year, in part because we didn't get the fencing done sooner. In late summer, all the girls were in the lower pasture and the boys were in the Triangle. Separated by two electric fences. Now, generally, the electric fences work pretty good for interior fencing, especially with an empty field between. However, on September 18, we found the gate between the Triangle and Middle pastures was open! Donkeys? Clever goats?

Well, it didn't matter, any 'damage' was done. We caught Jupiter with Riker (a goat formerly known as Baby), and Billy BA was strutting  around. In my notebook, I wrote down the names of does I suspected of being bred and (in large letters), "We'll know in February."  Most goats are pregnant for 150 days, so if they were bred on September 17, they would be due on February 14-- Valentine's Day!

On September 24, Billy BA had a planned breeding with Big Momma, Khaki, and Little Sister. (That would be February 21). Finally on October 9, Billy and Jupiter AGAIN got through the fences (due date of March 8).  After we finally got our fences erected, Billy BA was with several ladies from November 3 to December 15 ( this give us April 8 - May 15).

The kidding storm is much anticipated. How many  kids will a certain doe have? Will she have enough milk? What color will their eyes be and will they be white or some other color? So, I really thought that Curly and Maggie would be first. I was wrong! Of course, the mystery of 'when' is all covered in the Doe Code of Honor.

Feb 15- Flower had a single chocolate doeling. She developed severe mastitis so the doeling was getting supplemental bottles. Being fed three times a day, she picked up the name 'Stella' for the white star on her dark head. Father? Billy BA.
Big Momma a week before having triplets

Feb 17- Z2 had triplets in the afternoon! Two doelings and one buckling.

Feb 19- Big Momma had triplets! Two bucklings, one doeling. One buckling looks just like Billy BA, so he immediately was named Minime. the other buckling has a red head and cape, and dark brown feet, ergo, Spats. No doubt their dad is Billy BA.

Feb 21- Belle had twins about noon, both white with black heads, one boy, one girl. About 5 p.m., her sister, Doll, kidded and had one huge buckling and one preemie looking buckling. We were unable to save the little guy. Based on eye-color, we see Jupiter's first three kids!

Maggie and Curly, goats-in-waiting
Feb 22-  Curly finally kidded!  This was her first time,so were both nervous. The first kid presented with one leg and a snout. I was unable to get the other leg forward, but Curly managed to have the baby. The second boy arrived smoothly. Their names? Larry and Moe. Again, blue-eyed Jupiter was the papa.

Feb 24- Maggie delivered two doelings and again Jupiter is suspected.

Feb 28- Khaki had one huge single doeling in the large pasture across the street. Did not think she was so close. Fourteen pounds! Wowzers! Khaki was 'due' from the breeding with Billy BA on Feb 21, but this might be correct as that kid was giant! She looked a week old when born!

On Mar 5- Riker had two doelings, parentage unknown. Riker is also a first timer and I was glad to see her cleaning up the kids and making milk. Haven't gotten a good look at her girls yet, but she and Jupiter were always tight, since they were kids last spring.

So, all of these does got pregnant BEFORE the herd went to pasture with Billy BA. Who is left to kid? Fea, Heifer, Z1, maybe Red Spot. I think Fea and Heifer will kid in the next couple of weeks. Z1 and Red Spot will be due in the middle of June.At the end of the kidding storm, we got by accident what we wanted to plan! A short kidding window for a large number of goats.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

We're Back!

For those who follow (or used to follow) that Asno Blanco blog, we're back! In the past five months, we have been really busy, but almost standing still in some ways. I wrote a couple of half-baked entries that I never published and they will just quietly have their electrons erased.

So, I'll try to catch up on what has happened:

September- The water well was drilled at the 4041 homesite and we had the electricity turned on. The guys erected a fence and gate to separate the lower pasture in two. Billy and Jupiter got the gates open and visited the ladies in the lower pasture.  I noted it down in my composition book. Now, this notebook has saved me many times. You can run livestock well unless you know what happened and when. Note-- the boys got in the lower pasture on September 18 (these dates will be important later).

October- Ahem. Billy goats got down to the ladies again (October 9). We hired a fence builder to erect fence at the 4057 property. Great fence! Best of all, it was done in a few days. Our 'Goat Alley' system is starting to take shape, whereby we have alleyways to and from pastures and can move goats in them. Once we improve the fence between us and the neighbors, we can turn goats or donkeys out in the alleys to keep them 'mowed.'

I attended Goat Camp 2013, once again learning about goats and
cooking for the paying customers. While I was gone, Danny met a dog at the Brenham shelter who he knew needed to come live with him. Tiny little white shepherd. Her name is Agatha.

November- With the new fenced areas, we turned Billy BA out with does of breeding age, and put the younger goats in the Maternity Ward pen, which is adjacent to Danny's house. They quickly ate all the yaupon and sticker vine.... in a month!

I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the camper! The local VFD sells fried turkeys, so that solved my oven problem. I bought pies at HEB, and cooked the rest (dressing, gravy, green bean casserole) in the camper. I am thankful that I get to live in the country and that both my guys were there.

Agatha got very sick and after the vet ran blood tests, she said that the liver enzymes were off the charts and that Danny should just feed her whatever she wanted and give her a lot of love. Found out later that the vet (Dr Marsha Stein) truly thought that Agatha wasn't going to make it. However, we DID baby her, cooking ground beef and other tasty treats for her.

December- Dan and I started getting serious about our Barndominium plan. We decided to go with Willis Custom Homes as our contractor. Now, it's not just ideas, but a plan! We ended up with a 40 x 80 foot metal building, 16 feet high. At one end, we have a large one bedroom apartment, with two baths and a dream kitchen. At the other end we are going to build guest quarters with a bedroom and bath. Above the apartment will be (in the way future) a super large craft room on the second floor. Three sides will have 15 foot shed roofs and a lot of that will be porches. Looking out over the land!

Billy BA went back to the bachelor patch in the middle pasture in the middle of December.

Agatha is very healthy, but very bored, and somewhat cringe-y.  In the middle of December, we decide she needs a friend. Danny and I got in the car one Saturday and went to four different human society locations. We found a puppy from Aggieland Humane Society at PetSmart and she seemed to fit the requirements-- slightly younger than Agatha, big like Agatha, and cuddly. Her name is Hedy. Yes. Like Hedy Lamarr. She a beautiful blonde. Her mom was a Black Mouth Cur, like Old Yeller, and they think her dad was a lab, but I suspect some kind of hound.

January - Cold Winter!  Wow! In the camper, we have a Super Slide, which means our dinette and couch area can slide out, creating more room. However, it also means the floor is really cold! So happy I bought space heaters to augment the propane central heat in the trailer. Danny's house is well-insulated and two little space heaters keep it warm.  The water supply for the camper is a garden hose, so a couple of times, our water froze in the hose! Dan buried the hose under dirt, hay, and old carpet and that seems to have done the trick. With a three gallon water heater, it's still challenging to wash my hair and my body in the same shower...

We had a couple of ice days at the University, where I just stayed home rather than attempt to drive across some major bridges. Odd how much colder it gets in Burleson County; I guess since there is a heckova lot less people and buildings, it just freezes!

Even though it's cold, critters must be fed. I don't envy my town friends at all, with their cozy fireplaces and gallons of hot chocolate. I gladly get up early and brave stinging winds and bust up frozen troughs to take care of everyone. Living in the country is definitely for me!

In January, we also finalized our Barndo plans, signed contracts, and started planning what to build on the inside first. I vote full-size shower first! I can't wait to have unlimited hot water and room to turn!

February was full of goat news, so I'll leave that for the next installment (which won't take five months!).


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